I am told that the term “Goodbye” is derivative from the words “God be with you.” Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when that goodbye is to your last surviving grandparent.  On April 9, 2010, my grandmother, Betty Jane Quince departed the natural and re-entered the spiritual.

Left: JoAnne Quince-Duncan pictured with her mother Betty-Jane Quince

As I reflect on the life of Betty-Jane, my mind is flooded with over 40 years of special memories that took place in a little house in Pontiac, Michigan.  In close proximity to those fond memories lies an emotion I’ve come to know as regret.

The regret of not calling her as much as I should have…

The regret of not making my way to visit whenever I was in Michigan…

The regret of not making the most of opportunities provided to me by her and people like her…

My last visit to Betty-Jane occurred when I took my own granddaughter to Michigan for her first and only visit to Pontiac.  I remember thanking the Lord for blessing us to experience the presence of five generations sharing existence simultaneously.

While her physical health showed no real signs of deterioration, during her last few years with us, dementia increasingly reared its head.  I am convinced that one of the most difficult things to do in this life is to watch a love one’s mental state change before your very eyes.

The beauty in the passing of a grandmother lies in the intimate words of wisdom that helped to shape me into man I am.  I now fully understand that my life rests on the foundation of grandma’s prayers.

As I close this piece and prepare for a journey to Michigan to participate in the home-going services of Betty-Jane Quince, my comfort lies in the fact that she is resting in the arms of God, and her late husband, my grandfather, W.J.

Until we meet again, may you rest in eternal peace Grandma. We love you!

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Alyce (rt) pictured with her photographer and sister in-law, Tina Thompson

New York, LA and Atlanta have no shortage of up and coming authors, producers and playwrights.  Today’s interview features Ms. Alyce C. Thompson (ACT) of Philadelphia.  Alyce is an author and filmmaker with her own publishing and production companies.

An alumnus from Philly’s famous Overbrook High School, Alyce is charting her own course in the print and film industries.

Here is a recent discussion we had with Alyce.

You have six novels.  How did you get your start in writing?         I got my start through research and studying. I found self-publishing suitable for me at the time of my start almost ten years ago because I had three young children and limited resources, but I knew I wanted to become an author and publisher. Although publishing houses were interested in my work, it wasn’t feasible for my situation. I couldn’t lock myself into a situation and not be able to deliver so once I finished my first novel, I had it copy-written, got my ISBN’s, found graphic artist and printing companies and I was on my way and in charge of my own destiny. Being a single mother, it was important that I could move at my own pace.   Before my book had come back from print, I incorporated my company and I’ve been writing and publishing ever since.  It has been an interesting experience being a small, Black-owned company, but I wanted this so I had to endure all that came with it and I’ve learned a lot and (I am) still learning.

In addition to being a published author you have written two screen plays, one of which is currently in production. Tell us about your film venture.

 Wow. This is a very trying but interesting process, one I enjoy no matter what obstacles are thrown my way.  For me, because I am the main character in the feature, it was hard to pick and choose what I thought would be interesting enough for a feature.  Writing a book is different from writing a script. You have one to two hours to tell the story so being inside the story was difficult.  Once the script was complete, I had auditions and I knew exactly what I wanted from my cast.  Once rehearsals started, I had rewrites.  We had a small budget, but exceeded the budget. I was told, “anything is to be expected during production,” and I found that to be true but as long as you’re working with good people, have God on your side and you remain positive, you can overcome anything that comes your way.  I allowed the cast to bring their own creativeness to the set and that made the experience so much easier and exciting for us.  We had real firearms and although we had professional and skilled pyro-techs on the set, as well as the cast learning safety beforehand, it was difficult for me to stand by and watch my oldest son shoot my youngest son on set.  I didn’t want any of my cast hurt on set so I prayed before and during. Everybody did a wonderful job, became a real family and personalities fit perfectly. The experience was overwhelming.

 Overbrook High School (Philadelphia) has some famous alumni which include Wilt Chamberlain, Guion Bluford, Will Smith and James Lassiter to name a few. What was the culture like at Overbrook?

The culture at Overbrook was diverse. You had your athletes, the popular cliques, the nerds, the dressers, troublemakers. I would say I fell in between, maintained good grades, loved fashion, arts, experienced some negative things, and I was admired and respected for my uniqueness.  Most of my teachers and role models made me feel at home, like anything could be accomplished as long as I believed in me.  Overbrook was a great experience; more like a family environment. Becoming someone of importance was inevitable.  If you were a part of the Overbrook family, you knew you were special.

Tell us about the film 3 Men I Choose to Love.

3 Men I Chose to Love is based on my life’s story; all of the tragedies I experienced during my young life. I have three children; my first son’s father and I were together for five years and planned a life together with children, good careers, houses, cars, etc. We accomplished a lot for our age but things began to change, we finally went separate ways, and when he had gotten his life back, and wanted to be settled down with our son and me, he was gunned down. My second son’s father and I were living together, engaged, had a newborn son, and he was shot and kidnapped for thirty days for ransom but had died. My youngest child; my daughter’s father whom I had been with for two years was gunned down by a fifteen-year-old boy from his neighborhood. Three young lives were taken before they reached twenty-four. So, in short, they are the 3 Men I Chose to Love.  The “3” also represents, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who carried me through my storm and is the reason that I am here today because I couldn’t see life without my children’s fathers and raising my children had been very hard, but “I’m still standing.”

What can we expect from you in the near future?

I have so many dreams and desires, some things that I can’t mention right now but I am currently finishing up, “3 Men” the stage play and I am also working on a TV series based on my other novels.

We are extremely grateful for the time we’ve spent with Alyce and look forward to the books, films, stage-plays, television shows and whatever dreams she causes to come into fruition. 

To learn more about this modern author, playwright and producers, visit her website at www.alycecthompsonbooksinc.com.

Until next time,

Copyright © 2010

Recently, I heard someone refer to another brother as an Uncle Tom.  Although the remark was intended to degrade the target of the remarks, it only demonstrated the users lack of historical and literary acuteness associated with the terminology.

Not unlike most that use the term; to grossly mislabel another while attempting to belittle that person often backfires in a way that demonstrates one’s own lacking of Black history and ultimately the knowledge of self.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Published in 1852, the novel had a profound effect on attitudes toward African Americans and slavery in the United States, so much in the latter case that the novel intensified the sectional conflict leading to the American Civil War.

The author Harriet Stowe, a Connecticut-born preacher at the Hartford Female Academy and an active abolitionist, focused the novel on the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering black slave around whom the stories of other characters—both fellow slaves and slave owners—revolve. The sentimental novel depicts the reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as enslavement of fellow human beings.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century, and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible.  It is credited with helping fuel the abolitionist cause in the 1850s.  In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States alone. The book’s impact was so great that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the Civil War, Lincoln is often quoted as having declared, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.”

The book, and even more the plays it inspired, also helped create a number of stereotypes about Black people, many of which endure to this day. These include the affectionate, dark-skinned “mammy”; the “pickaninny” stereotype of black children; and the Uncle Tom, or dutiful, long-suffering servant faithful to his white master or mistress. In recent years, the negative associations with Uncle Tom’s Cabin have, to an extent, overshadowed the historical impact of the book as a “vital antislavery tool.” wiki

How many of us have done whatever we had to do in order to survive in the midst of an oppressive situation.  Anybody remember when racist cops and discriminatory lunch counters were the order of the day?  Although we life to romanticize the vigilant 60’s, bear in mind that many of us tolerated untold oppression at the hand of the oppressor.

So I ask the question: “Was Uncle Tom really an Uncle Tom?”  Or was he simply a symbiotic depiction of the innate ability for survival?  I dare to say most of us (and our grandparents) silently accepted the frequency of dehumanization in order to preserve the race in hopes of a brighter tomorrow.  A tomorrow where our children’s children are so comfortable that they fail to realize the significance of the suffering that predates their ipods, x-boxes and their cell phones.

Truth be told, the spirit of Stowe’s fictitious character Tom resides in many of us today.  Don’t be ashamed of it.  Recognize it. Embrace it.  Appreciate what it represented and never forget it.

D’s deux ¢

Copyright © 2010

If you follow this blog you recall a series we did on the Harlem Renaissance, featuring Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and others.  On the last day of Black History Month it’s only fitting that we pay homage to the World Famous Harlem Globetrotters.

If by some chance you are totally oblivous; Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team known for its athleticism, theater, comedy and high scoring games.

Those who know me are familiar with my opinionated quips (better known as D’s 2¢) know that I have a certain disdain for buffoonery.  Before we dismiss their antics as cooning, we must first be mindfully aware of the environment during which the G-Trotters were birthed.

Initially, the G-Trotters were a serious competitive team, and despite a flair for entertainment, they would only clown (or coon; depending on how you see it) for the audience after establishing a safe and sizable lead in any given game.  In 1939, they accepted an invitation to participate in the World Professional Basketball Tournament, where they met the New York Rens in the semi-finals in the first big clash of the two greatest all-Black professional basketball teams. The Rens defeated the G-Trotters and went on to win the Tournament, but in 1940 the G-Trotters avenged their loss by defeating the Rens in the quarterfinals and advancing to the championship game, where they beat the Chicago Bruins in overtime by a score of 37–36.

The G-Trotters gradually worked comic routines into their act until they became known more for entertainment than sports.  The G-Trotters’ acts often feature incredible coordination and skillful handling of one or more basketballs, such as passing or juggling balls between players, balancing or spinning balls on their fingertips, and making unusual, difficult shots.

It is not uncommon for Blacks to create an industry with their gifts.  Basketball, a game originate by Dr. James Naismith was not created with Black in mind.  However, having evolved into a sport where extreme coordination, jumping, ball-handling and the combination of strength and grace are paramount; it was only a matter of time before game transcended from its origin.

Predating modern day millionaires like MJ, Kobe and Lebron; pioneers like Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neale, Marques Haynes and Wilt Chamberlain were all instrumental in transforming the game into what we see it today: Entertaining spectator competitive sports.  And let’s not forget that they are the only professional sports team (to my knowledge) to have a cartoon series and a comic book.

Although the G-Trotters are not what they once were (which is largely due to the high flying acts of the NBA in physical play and mass media marketing), but they will always be considered a significant part of our history and the history of the game we consider FANTASTIC.

D’s 2¢

Those of you who follow this blog know that it doesn’t have to be February in order for us to celebrate Black folks.  To that end, I recently re-read Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man

Steve is probably one of the greatest comedic genius’ that ever graced this green planet.  With a New York Times’ Best Seller out the gate, Steve has chartered territory many brothers avoid.  Rereading this piece caused me to re-examine my own role as a Black husband.

Having been married for almost 19 years now, I read Steve’s book from through the lens of seasoned vet.  Not in the art of the game, but more so from a perspective of a brother that is merely elated to NOT be in the game in 21st century.

In 2009 I wrote a piece entitled; I think I love my wife.  Borrowing the title from Chris Rock’s cinematic representation of marital and infidelous accounts, I drew analogies to my sometimes lack of appreciation for the woman I married in 1991.

We are just a few days removed from Valentine’s Day but the significance of the day lingers, leaving a residual effect of love that has stood the test of time.  Proverbs 18:22 suggests that he who finds a wife, finds a good thing.  Though I’m a devout Christian, that particular verse of scripture has disturbing implications because all who have found wives haven’t necessarily found “a good thing.”  I’m just thankful that in my case, the scripture rings true.

Not to worry, this piece is not headed down the road of how great and wonderful my wife is (while that is true, it is not the point of this discourse), but rather the lack of successful couplings within the race today. 

2009 produced a significant decline for educated Black women finding a marital mate.  A part of me has bought into the notion of educated Black women possessing intimidating leadership traits that somehow are a turn-off for her natural counterparts.  The notion was dismissed as quickly as it developed.  In my humble opinion (often referred to as D’s 2¢), there is nothing more beautiful than a Black woman who has something between her ears.  I’ll go on record as being the first to say that it is the uneducated sister that’s intimidating.

Stay with me as I imagine coming home from work to a woman that has prepared a fattening meal of fried food, macaroni and cheese, fully-loaded bake potatoes (that’s right, two starches!) and a big-a** glass of Kool-Aid with so much sugar in it that it can’t totally dissolve- and just sets at the bottom of the glass like syrup.    And that’s on the day she decides to cook.  The other days consist of McDonald’s, KFC or Rally’s (or Checkers depending upon your geographical setting).  As a prologue to the fattening meal, her conversations mirror that of a Maury Povich Show guest.  You get the point.  This certainly is not a good thing. 

Even a devoted practitioner of Steve’s gold nuggets could not sway me in the direction of those kinds of sisters.  I love my race, but even my devotion has limitations.  I have total lack of tolerance for a sister who spend more on purses, pumps, weaves and wigs than they do on books, tuition and CEU’s (pray for me, I working on this).  Please don’t mistake me.  Not everyone is fortunate to go to college, but we can all better ourselves through some form of enlightenment.  This country is full self-taught extraordinary Black women.

It’s probably best that I conclude this blog before I alienate some of my readers (it may already be too late).  As I close I am reminded of a rap lyric from the ATL-based group, Goodie Mob which epitomizes how Mary and I have evolved over 19 years:

“Closer than the skin on the back of my hand

Through the thick and thin we can win

Beautiful Black skin….”

D’s deux ¢

Benjamin Banneker (Nov. 9, 1731 – Oct. 9, 1806)

Profession: Mathematician, Astronomer, Surveyor

Birthplace: Ellicott’s Mills, Md.

Black History Month is a time when African Americans reflect, recall and recount the significance of their contribution to the world.  One of the culture’s largest contributors’ is a man named Benjamin Banneker.

Benjamin Banneker has been called by many the first African American intellectual. Self-taught, after studying the inner workings of a friend’s watch, he made one of wood that accurately kept time for more than 40 years. Banneker also taught himself astronomy well enough to correctly predict a solar eclipse in 1789. From 1791 to 1802 he published the Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanac and Ephemeris, which contained tide tables, future eclipses, and medicinal formulas.

It is believed to be the first scientific book published by an African American.  Also a surveyor and mathematician, Banneker was appointed by President George Washington to the District of Columbia Commission, which was responsible for the survey work that established the city’s original boundaries. When the chairman of the committee, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, suddenly resigned and left, taking the plans with him, Banneker reproduced the plans from memory.  

An avid opponent of slavery, Banneker sent a copy of his first almanac to then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to counter Jefferson’s belief in the intellectual inferiority of Blacks.

Banneker never married.  He died on Oct. 9, 1806, and was buried in the family burial ground near his house.  Among the memorabilia preserved were his book and the manuscript journal where he’d entered astronomical calculations and personal notations.

On February 15, 1980, the United States Postal Service issued in Annapolis, Maryland, a 15 cent stamp that illustrated a portrait of Banneker.  An image of Banneker standing behind a short telescope mounted on a tripod is superimposed upon the portrait.  The device shown in the stamp resembles Andrew Ellicott’s transit and equal altitude instrument, which is presently in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.  The stamp is part of the Postal Service’s Black Heritage stamp series.

Until next time,

Many of you who follow this blog know that February is our favorite time of year.  While you may be knowledgeable of Black History Month, your astuteness may fall short on the origin of the same.

What is presently known as Black History Month was originated in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson as Negro History Week.  The month of February was selected in deference to Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln who were both born in that month.

Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 to train Black historians and to collect, preserve, and publish documents on Black life and Black people (not all that dissimilar from FathersFootprints.com). He also founded the Journal of Negro History (1916), Associated Publishers (1922), and the Negro Bulletin (1937). Woodson spent his life working to educate all people about the significant and vast contributions made by Black men and women throughout history.  Mr. Woodson died on April 3, 1950 and left Black History Month as his legacy.

While we appreciate the birthing of Black History Month, let’s not lose sight of several other significant occurrences within our history that took place during the month of February:

February 23, 1868: W. E. B. DuBois, important civil rights leader and co-founder of the NAACP, was born.

February 3, 1870: The 15th Amendment was passed, granting blacks the right to vote.

February 25, 1870: The first black U.S. senator, Hiram R. Revels (1822-1901), took his oath of office.

February 12, 1909: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded by a group of concerned black and white citizens in New York City.

February 1, 1960: In what would become a civil-rights movement milestone, a group of black Greensboro, N.C., college students began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter.

February 21, 1965: Malcolm X, the militant leader who promoted Black Nationalism, was shot to death by three Black Muslims.

Carter G. opened the door and blazed a trail.  It is up to present day Blacks to continue to educate our youth on the significance and importance of our history – even if they are resistant.

D’s 2¢